(I received a digital copy of this book from the author)
Before I begin to talk about the book, allow me to share a little something about myself. My tryst with the world of books began way before my teenage years, and more than 2 decades later, I’m still enamoured by it. I have huge respect for authors with published and/or WIP books. It takes a special kind of dedication to put yourself out there in the hope that what you have written resonates with your readers.
The Speed of Life, an Illustrated novel is the debut work of James Victor Jordan. When I was contacted to read and review this novel, the brief synopsis was intriguing: “What happens when a brutal crime threatens a mother’s love for her son? An old Florida family and those in their orbit get caught in a torrent of passion, a deadly legal system, and the mythology of the Everglades, which runs as deep as this story does.” A crime thriller with mythology thrown in? Sign-me up right now!
The Speed of Life begins with Estella – part Seminole, part black, part white – who is a victim of a home invasion during which she is beaten and raped. The rapist leaves a note saying that Estella’s son, Andrew, sent him to do it. When Andrew is charged with an accessory in crime, Estella is desperate to talk to him to discover the truth, but is served with a restraining order, preventing her from talking to him to protect his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. What happens after is a series of short-stories involving different characters – all of them are connected to Estella and Andrew. The narration switches between first and third person perspectives, and the present and the past.
The book gave me insight into the world of astrophysics and the Seminole culture – both of these genres were difficult for me and I lost my way quite a bit. I visualise a lot while reading, and this is where it felt short for me. There were some scenes that I just couldn’t picture or understand. The book is told from so many view-points that by the end of it I had forgotten half of them. The character development was strong, but I struggled to connect with even one of them. It is a fast paced novel encompassing many story lines and it will never get monotonous. More than a few times I was on the verge of giving up, but I continued on. The story reeled me in just when I had decided to give up. Perhaps a less patient reader would have; however, I rarely leave book unfinished.
To find comfort in numbers, I looked up the book on Goodreads and was pleasantly surprised that it had scored an average rating of 4.4- which is a fantastic feat for any book! In addition, it has received glowing reviews and perhaps is deserving of all the praise. But, it just wasn’t for me. The author has a phenomenal grasp on the subject which is evident from the first chapter. For a crime thriller, I imagined something light and gripping, in fact I found Speed Of Life to be heavy and a complicated read. On sharing this feedback with James, he tells me “A trial is a search for truth, so metaphysics is a subtextual current that runs through the novel, always asking: what is true?”
I would suggest you read the book from start to finish as the story really comes together in the most unique way. It is a beautifully written piece of literary fiction, that addresses the complex human relations, with a bit of mysticism, philosophy and astronomy thrown in together around a modern courtroom drama.